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Citizen journalists drive online politics

November 4 is right around the corner, so if you haven’t had a meeting or two about elections coverage, now’s as good a time as any. If you’re already on the ball or if you need to get rolling, here are some online sites that are infusing new media into traditional political journalism and powered by citizen journalists.

For the average citizen, presidential primaries can be a confusing and complicated process. Regular guy/techie Jim Edlin presents an alternative to the existing process of electing a president with the site OnlinePrimary. Visitors are asked to rank the presidential candidates and the results are posted on the front page.

One part of the political process that is a head scratcher for the average person is the Democratic Party’s use of superdelegates. The Superdelegate Transparency Project aims to remove a little bit of the mystery behind these all-important politicos by examining who they are and who they plan to vote for (right now, the count is in favor of Hillary Clinton). The site also provides in-depth, yet easy to read information on how the delegate process works.

In a play for the Naked News crowd (link semi-NSFW), SexyPolitics is encouraging political awareness by adding a little incentive. It’s simple: take a quiz on political candidates, issues or general political knowledge and the more questions you get right, the more articles of clothing the “stripper” removes. The questions can get admittedly difficult so you’re going to have to work hard to get that sexy prisoner to disrobe. If you’re only interested in taking the quizzes, there is an option to skip the strip. On the plus side, the site is making politics and a whole lot more interesting and, ahem, sexier.

YouBama, a portmanteau of video sharing site YouTube and presidential candidate Barack Obama, is exactly what its name suggests: a site for sharing videos of the presidential candidate. Users have uploaded roughly 600 videos of campaign ads, attacks on the competition, news clips and poems(?).

Can you really tell a lot about a candidate based on his or her website? Dustin Brewer thinks so. The freelance web designer judges the candidates’ web presence from a purely technical standpoint, examining the lines of code and overall design. Barack Obama comes out on top for his site’s clean and modern look and cross-browser compatibility, while John McCain and Mike Huckabee fall to the bottom for their lack of effort and faulty coding.

Every political candidate has their own website, faulty or no, but 23-year-old Meghan McCain is getting serious mileage out of the web by blogging her experiences while on the road with her father, newly minted Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The site is like a journal/family photo album and makes the elder McCain seem less staid as he and some other candidates can appear to be when making the rounds on television.

Speaking of blogs, a recent Harris poll showed that “only” 22 percent of Americans of read political blogs regularly, but I’d like to flip that notion on its head. Considering there are roughly 303 million people living in America and blogs really became mainstream in the last few years, I’d say that’s quite a lot of people reading political blogs.

Consider also that the public’s reliance on newspapers and television as a source of political news is slipping (but you knew that already), according to the Pew Research Center. That means its time to beef up online political news and perhaps look to the average Janes and Joes for a little inspiration.

For more politics, check out previous posts on tracking the presidential candidates online and unusual political news coverage.

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